As other reviews have said, this is a young adult novel, and is probably better appreciated by actual young adults. But there is a lot to like about t...moreAs other reviews have said, this is a young adult novel, and is probably better appreciated by actual young adults. But there is a lot to like about this book, specifically the "after" portion. There is some very real exploring of the emotions we feel after the event that splits this book into before and after. There are a ton of really great topics for conversation brought up by this book. And in its own way the process of looking for Alaska is compelling enough to keep me reading. In that regard it felt a bit like The Sense of an Ending lite.
But this is not a particularly subtle book by any stretch. And reading through the "before" I felt like Green just had to write SOMETHING to get us to the "after". There isn't a lot of depth to the characters, no real explanation of WHY they are drawn to each other, unless it is all just the strength of Alaska's gravity that pulls them together. The loyalty and intimacy of the core characters feels rather convenient and rushed, and if I can think of terms to describe switching from public high school to boarding school in another state where you know no one, convenient would not be one of those terms. The "event" can be guessed at early on, as can the mystery the characters try to solve. There are no stunning plot twists here, and if that was the point it is a rather ho hum execution of it. But I think really the point is the internal processing of Pudge and our going along that ride with him.
Ultimately this is a book I enjoy talking about more than having read, if that makes sense. Can we reinvent ourselves and start over with a blank slate? How are we changed by those we are close to? What does it mean to truly know someone, and how great is our desire to be known by others? Looking for Alaska doesn't really try to answer them, and makes some assumptions I may not agree with about others, but ultimately raises them well and doesn't shy away from making you think about such questions. (less)
I find myself in the same situation as my friend who recommended this book. Discussing it places you somewhat in the shoes of Schrodinger, literary cr...moreI find myself in the same situation as my friend who recommended this book. Discussing it places you somewhat in the shoes of Schrodinger, literary critic. To review this thing is to, at some level, run the risk of killing it.
In briefest summation, it is about a man (Tony) getting on in years and reconciling his past with his present, and how he defines himself by the history he either chooses to remember, or unconsciously forgets. Of course it's really about how we all do those things. At times I find our protagonist quite unlikable really, at times very sympathetic.
Most of the novel is spent following the developments of a mystery that brings him back to events of his youth. But what this mystery is evolves, and ultimately leaves you realizing that the mystery is really about who we are, what time does to our personal history and how our ego protects us and perhaps keep us from seeing some truths about ourselves.
I found Barnes' voices for the same character at different stages of his life impressive, and the style and prose seem very personal, and very much how a mind works: short bursts of thought, self-reflection, realizations and rationalizations, all strung together in a generally orderly way, but sometimes disjointed and interrupted by other thoughts that may or may not relate to the line of reasoning being pursued.
It is a compelling read, one that is difficult to put down, but not for a reason that is easy to put my finger on. The mystery element isn't so shocking or confounding that I simply must see how it turns out, rather I wanted to find out who Tony really is.(less)
So the first compendium is basically half of what exists out there. And, well, this is about the most hopeless thing I've ever read. The writing itsel...moreSo the first compendium is basically half of what exists out there. And, well, this is about the most hopeless thing I've ever read. The writing itself isn't hopeless, I mean the story is. What becomes of humanity is. I THINK I'll keep going, but like the characters in the story, I'm just not sure what there is to keep going for, and maybe I should just give up now. (less)
I feel to really get the most out of this book you need some level of competence in 3 languages: English, Spanish, and Geek. I'm fluent in English and...moreI feel to really get the most out of this book you need some level of competence in 3 languages: English, Spanish, and Geek. I'm fluent in English and Geek, but the frequent dialogue in Spanish, use of Spanish phrases etc were a bit of a problem for me. I could either look them up, and take myself out of the book, or just try to figure them out from context, which is what I usually did. The use of Spanish certainly adds to the environment and texture of the book, and does plant you firmly in Oscar's world and in the history of the Dominican Republic, I just wish I could read more of it.
Diaz does a great job of painting a picture of life in various points of history of the DR. And really I find this novel to be more about that experience, and how it shapes the generations of his characters than a story about Oscar. Oscar seems more a device for others to tell their story, and because of that he seems somewhat unbelievable at times. The inevitability of his life makes it difficult to feel sympathetic towards him, as does his self-imposed misery in so many aspects of life.
If this really were a story about Oscar Wao I'd find it to be decidedly Non-wondrous and not brief enough. But as a tale of the DR, the immigrant experience, and the abilities of a dictator to ruin people, it's far more interesting and worth a read.(less)
I had been meaning to read this since high school, and somehow never did until now. Compared to other dystopian novels of the post WWII era, such as O...moreI had been meaning to read this since high school, and somehow never did until now. Compared to other dystopian novels of the post WWII era, such as Orwell's, Farenheit 451 stands out to me for being strangely optimistic. More notably though is Bradbury's style. Where Orwell's writing seems as bleak and to the point as the worlds he is writing about, Bradbury is lyrical, beautiful and almost poetic at times. It's a stark contrast to the world he's describing, and perhaps that's why the book feels optimistic even when the events taking place are bleak.
As with most dystopian novels, there is governmental oppression, constant threat of war, and the dangers of trying to be an individual in a society that demands conformity. But the backstory of how society got to this point is somewhat explained, and mostly hinted at. And largely it's because people wanted it that way. It's easy to see reflections of our society in 451's, and while that's hardly unique to Bradbury's work, it makes it feel all the more relevant and engaging. There's a reason this book is on most people's lists of things to read in your lifetime, and it won't be a chore to do so.(less)
A nice book (really a lengthy essay I guess) on reading. Reading a book on reading... meta-reading? At any rate, it does give voice to some of what is...moreA nice book (really a lengthy essay I guess) on reading. Reading a book on reading... meta-reading? At any rate, it does give voice to some of what is good about literature, and why we read, or should read. Jacobs is actually rather liberating, in that he opposes any set list of books that one "must read" or any particular way that we should approach books. Books are to be savored, not rushed in order to check them off a list. He does make the distinction between types of readers, most notably the "born reader" who is basically compelled to read, and would rather be reading a book than about anything else. This book will not really help them or give them insight. It is aimed at those of us who like to read, but have so many other things we could invest our limited free time in. In pointing out WHY we should read he indirectly does a good job selling the allocation of that time in books, which I am grateful for.(less)
This biography was started before his death, so it is not the rush job I originally thought that it would be coming out so soon after Jobs died. Howev...moreThis biography was started before his death, so it is not the rush job I originally thought that it would be coming out so soon after Jobs died. However, I feel that the detail and insight into his life is much more biased towards his early years. Time starts passing faster and faster the further you get into the book, and it starts to feel less like a look into Jobs and what made him tick, and more of an encyclopedic summary of what was going on at Apple.
It's still a very interesting read, and a good look at a very interesting man, but I just wish that another 6 months or year had passed between Jobs' death and the release of the book. Some time for reflection and less immediate impact could have made the last part of the biography as compelling as the beginning.(less)
I loved this book. I don't think I've ripped through something this quickly since Harry Potter. And frankly there are a lot of similarities. It's not...moreI loved this book. I don't think I've ripped through something this quickly since Harry Potter. And frankly there are a lot of similarities. It's not like the prose in RPO is challenging, the plot is a bit straight forward and basically predictable, and there are some kind of lazy shortcuts taken in advancing said plot.
But I don't care. This book is a bit of a love letter to a certain era of geek. If you're not in the target audience you're bound to see more of its flaws, and won't feel the same way about it as those that are square in the target audience. My wife wouldn't love this book as much as I did (although I still think she'd enjoy it a great deal). But the stars are for what *I* thought of it, not what I think you'll think of it.
In essence this is a fairly standard quest tale. Boy rises from nothing, achieves fame and importance for his skills, meets a merry band of fellow travelers along the way, there are things they must do as the fate of the world is at stake... HOW will it end? That the entire quest is basically dependent on '80s geek trivia simply provides the litmus test for whether you will love or tolerate this book. Harry Potter-esque, except substituting the creativity of Rowling's created world for fond remembrances of the existing world of the '80s music and video game culture.
The novel is set in a dystopian future where global warming has ruined things and the population... but you know what? You shouldn't care. Because Cline doesn't care. The real world is definitely not the point of this novel. It is a plot device to force everyone to care about what happens in the OASIS, the virtual reality where almost everything of importance happens. The scant bits of the story that take place IRL are somewhat awkward, and feel almost like an intrusion. The novel works best when the focus is squarely on the virtual world that has taken over, and is more important than reality for all the major characters. The emotions of our hero, Wade, feel wooden and forced when they relate to real world events. What he feels about people he only knows online, or events that take place there feel far more genuine. Which in a way is as it should be, since his reality is the virtual one. This truth is not really explored much, and offers potential for reflection on our society today. But that's not really the point of the book, and while it would be interesting, it doesn't seem to be the deep conversation Cline wants to have.
What he does want to do is sing a love song to the early days of video games and synthesized music. In this he is spectacularly successful. A couple of deux ex machinas and some predictability can be overlooked in how totally he accomplishes this goal.(less)
I appreciated the way the world the characters inhabit unfolds as you read the book, throughout the early portion of the book there is this well done...moreI appreciated the way the world the characters inhabit unfolds as you read the book, throughout the early portion of the book there is this well done feeling of this world being basically like ours, but somehow slightly skewed in some important way.
The writing struck me as light and easy, which is an interesting contrast to the subject matter. I felt it gave the reader a sense of discovery right along with naive characters trying to find their way in their world. The plot is thought provoking, but choices that characters refuse to make seemed hard for me to swallow. But perhaps that is fitting in a subtlely dystopian world. (less)
Great atmosphere, and I really enjoyed the world that Clarke created. However, I found the story that took place in that world less interesting than I...moreGreat atmosphere, and I really enjoyed the world that Clarke created. However, I found the story that took place in that world less interesting than I thought it would be. By the time I finished the book my reaction was not one of gratitude for such a great read, or sadness that the tale was over, but more like apathy. It seemed like at some point Clarke just decided that was a good place for the tale to end, but could have done so at a variety of other points. In the end: good, not great.(less)
Personally my favorite work by C.S. Lewis, and I am a big fan of him generally. What makes this book so powerful to me is the fact that it is not apol...morePersonally my favorite work by C.S. Lewis, and I am a big fan of him generally. What makes this book so powerful to me is the fact that it is not apologetics like so much of his work, nor is it allegory ala The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. There is an air of the mysterious and the unknown to it, and you feel very much along for the ride with the protagonist. But most of all it rings with deeper truth, without spoon feeding the reader or parcelling out neatly digestible morsels of that truth. (less)
This was very enjoyable, but struck me as rather different in tone from Moneyball The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Moneyball is very much about the...moreThis was very enjoyable, but struck me as rather different in tone from Moneyball The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Moneyball is very much about the economics of baseball, finding value where others miss it, etc. This book has elements of that, but is a far more personal story. In some ways it makes this book more compelling, but less fascinating. (less)
As with the other books of Malcolm Gladwell, I found Outliers to be a tad repetitive. Thankfully, digging deeper into the stories of success isn't tir...moreAs with the other books of Malcolm Gladwell, I found Outliers to be a tad repetitive. Thankfully, digging deeper into the stories of success isn't tiring at all, and is very interesting. I found the chapter on airline crashes particularly interesting. There's a lot of food for thought here, and it will make you question the very American idea of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps". We don't want to think that's really a fallacy, this book will try to show that it is. The conclusions Gladwell comes to aren't ironclad in my mind though, and I feel like he offered more studies to back up his points in his earlier books. (less)
Starts off truly great: highly informative and interesting. Taylor shows what made her a great scientist when it comes to outreach and educating peopl...moreStarts off truly great: highly informative and interesting. Taylor shows what made her a great scientist when it comes to outreach and educating people. The second half of the book starts to get rather repetitive though, and by the time I finished the last section it was far more self-help than informative nonfiction. I could have sworn I was reading The Secret. Still a worthwhile read though.(less)